Overall, 51% of Hawaii’s public school graduates from the Class of 2021 went on to college in the first fall after graduation. This is a slight increase from the 50% enrollment rate seen from the Class of 2020, but is still down from the pre-pandemic rate of 55%. The Class of 2021 enrolled in four-year institutions at rates comparable to pre-pandemic levels, but enrollments at two-year institutions remained stagnant. The Class of 2021 also matched the all-time high on-time graduation rate of 86%, with more students achieving honors in academic achievements, STEM, career and technical education (CTE), and in earning the Seal of Biliteracy. More DOE graduates entered the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) enrolling in college-level English and mathematics or having already earned these credits. 

"It's encouraging to see our college enrollment rates starting to recover and our graduation rate hitting an all-time high. This is a testament to the resiliency of our students who continue to prioritize their education and strive for excellence," Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. "We know there is more work to do to support our future graduates. Hawaii P-20's report is a vital assessment tool for our public schools to identify strengths and areas for improvement to equip our students with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be successful in their futures after high school.”

Erika Lacro, Vice President of Community Colleges at UH noted, “We see some positive trends and some that are concerning. Dual credit has opened doors for our high school students to continue to develop the knowledge and skills needed for our workforce. At the same time, we must systematically improve connecting students with programs at the community colleges that can lead to new opportunities in Hawaiʻi’s workforce. The seven community colleges are excellent options to meet students’ needs within their communities and provide pathways to high-wage and high-demand careers.”

Data published in the College and Career Readiness Indicators (CCRI) Report also identified areas where support and monitoring will be needed in upcoming years. Statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) data had plateaued and began showing a downward trend prior to the pandemic. Due to disruptions in 2020, the SBA in English/Language Arts and Mathematics were not administered. The lack of data underscores the need for close monitoring of these indicators in coming years to identify trends and to plan possible interventions.

Consistent with trends across the United States, enrollment in two-year colleges for the Class of 2021 fell to the lowest levels in recent years. The Youth Voice Hawaiʻi Report from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation offers insights and may provide some context for these trends. The report summarizes the thoughts and impressions shared by students and staff on their views of education and aspirations for the future. Academic relevance, life skills preparation, and exposure to pathways and access to information were three areas highlighted in the core findings as highly important areas where school system partners have a lot of influence.

“Industry is eager to support our students through education and workforce training partnerships and collaboration to leverage resources that will benefit our state’s economic and workforce needs. The College and Career Readiness Indicators give everyone timely access to quality information that can be used to prepare our students to take their next steps into the workforce of Hawaiʻi,” said Leslie Wilkins from the Maui Economic Development Board.

This is an opportunity for all stakeholders to continue supporting the creation and alignment of CTE programs, career pathways that start in high school and lead to meaningful credentials offered at our Hawaiʻi colleges; continued creation and coordination of dual credit door-opener opportunities that expose students to the benefits of post-secondary training in all forms, and continued investment in opportunities for students to be ready to succeed once they arrive in college. It is an opportunity to reflect on the work that has been done and use data to identify additional need areas to best prepare students for continued success on the pathway from high school into the workforce.